March 28, Palm Sunday: Study and Meditation on the Scripture Readings

To help you prepare for this coming Sunday, here are the readings and reflections for this coming Sunday’s Scripture readings. This Sunday is Palm, or Passion Sunday.

Due to the length of the Passion narrative, in this study I am concentrating on the Processional Gospel instead.

Here are the Scripture readings from the U.S. Catholic bishops website.

My own weekly study (along with Don Schwager’s meditation) can be found here under "Current Study.

Reflections on the Sunday Scriptures to share with the younger ones in your family by Emily and Jeff Cavins can be found at Family Night .

Here also are links to audio reflections on the Gospel reading by Dr. Scott Hahn and Fr. Robert Barron.

The Navarre Bible Commentary for each reading can be viewed here.

Further study resources for the Readings: St. Charles Borromeo Bible Study can be found here, and Catholic Matters can be found here.

Here are trio of recorded weekly Bible studies, each about an hour long:
St. Martha Catholic Church Adult Faith Formation
Franciscan Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother
Sunday Gospel Scripture Study.

Discussion and charitable comments are always welcome. Have a blessed and holy Lent!

http://www.jesuit.org.sg/graphics/prayer/homilies/palm.sunday.jpg

This Sunday’s First Reading is from Isaiah 50:4-7. The *Navarre Bible Commentary *notes the following about Isaiah 50:4-9.

The second [Servant] song dealt with the servant’s mission (cf. 49:6); the third song focuses on the servant himself. The term “servant” as such does not appear here, and therefore some commentators read the passage as being a description of a prophet and not part of the songs. Still, the context (cf. 50:10) does suggest that the protagonist is the servant. The poem is neatly constructed in three stanzas, each beginning with the words, “The Lord God” (vv. 4, 5, 7), and it has a conclusion containing that same wording (v. 9). The first stanza emphasizes the servant’s docility to the word of God; that is, he is not depicted as a self-taught teacher with original ideas, but as an obedient disciple. The second (vv. 5-6) speaks of the suffering that that docility has brought him, without his uttering a word of complaint. The third (vv. 7-8) shows how determined the servant is: if he suffers in silence, it is not out of cowardice but because God helps him and makes him stronger than his persecutors. The conclusion (v. 9) is like the verdict of a trial: when all is said and done, the servant will stand tall, and all his enemies will be struck down.

The evangelists saw the words of this song as finding fulfillment in Jesus–especially what the song has to say about the suffering and silent fortitude of the servant. The Gospel of John, for example, quotes Nicodemus’ acknowledgment of Christ’s wisdom: “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him” (Jn 3:21). But the description of the servant’s sufferings was the part that most impressed the early Christians; that part of the song was recalled when they meditated on the passion of Jesus and how “they spat in his face; and struck him; and some slapped him” (Mt 26:67) and later how the Roman soldiers “spat upon him, and took the reed and struck him on the head” (Mt 27:30; cf. also Mk 15:19; Jn 19:3). St Paul refers to v. 9 when applying to Christ Jesus the role of intercessor on behalf of the elect in the suit pressed constantly against them by the enemies of the soul: “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” (Rom 8:33).

St Jerome sees the servant’s docility as a reference to Christ: “His self-discipline and wisdom enabled him to communicate to us the knowledge of the Father. And he was obedient onto death, death on the cross; he offered his body to the blows they struck, his shoulders to the lash; and though he was wounded on the chest and on his face, he did not try to turn away and escape their violence” (“Commentarii In Isaiam”, 50, 4). This passage is used in the liturgy of Palm Sunday (along with Psalm 22 and St Paul’s hymn in the Letter to the Philippians 2:6-11), before the reading of our Lord’s passion.

Isaiah describes in these verses how the suffering servant—the Messiah—accepts the role of suffering which the Father had designated for him. He is to preach the message of God’s mercy to men. Many will reject him and torture him, but God is on his side and he will not be moved from his resolute purpose by their insults and injuries.

Here is this weeks First Reading as we will hear it at this Sundays Mass:

Reading I
Isaiah 50:4-7

The Lord GOD has given me
a well-trained tongue,
that I might know how to speak to the weary
a word that will rouse them.
Morning after morning
he opens my ear that I may hear;
and I have not rebelled,
have not turned back.
I gave my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who plucked my beard;
my face I did not shield
from buffets and spitting.

The Lord GOD is my help,
therefore I am not disgraced;
I have set my face like flint,
knowing that I shall not be put to shame.

[4] **The Lord GOD has given me a well-trained [lit. “a disciples”] tongue, That I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse *[or “sustain”] *them. Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear; **

• A disciple needs a “well trained tongue” and an “open ear” because he needs to listen to God before he can presume to speak in his name.
• Jesus even says this about himself (John 14:10)
to the weary—the exiles; those who would be weary of their captivity.

[5] And I have not rebelled, have not turned back. [6] **I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; My face I did not shield from buffets and spitting. **

Rebelled…turned back: God’s Servant has not refused the Divine vocation even though he is ignored and even maltreated.
Plucked…buffets…spitting: All were serious insults. Our Lord endured similar insult.
• *Plucking of the beard *was insulting to a man’s dignity. See David’s men (2 Sam. 10:4).

[7] **The Lord GOD is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame. **

like flint: In the prophets, indicates steadfastness or resoluteness (Ezekiel 3:9).
• We read in Luke 9:51 (RSV) that “Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem.”

In summary:

  1. The Servant has the heart of a disciple, learning humbly from God.
  2. The Servant, in his humilty, suffers without complaint.
  3. Determined, the Suffering Servant trusts in God.

All of these point to Jesus, in whom it was most completely fulfilled and who is our model.

References in the Catechism of the Catholic Church to this passage include:

601 The Scriptures had foretold this divine plan of salvation through the putting to death of “the righteous one, my Servant” as a mystery of universal redemption, that is, as the ransom that would free men from the slavery of sin. Citing a confession of faith that he himself had “received”, St. Paul professes that “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures.” In particular Jesus’ redemptive death fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy of the suffering Servant. Indeed Jesus himself explained the meaning of his life and death in the light of God’s suffering Servant. After his Resurrection he gave this interpretation of the Scriptures to the disciples at Emmaus, and then to the apostles.

713 The Messiah’s characteristics are revealed above all in the “Servant songs.” These songs proclaim the meaning of Jesus’ Passion and show how he will pour out the Holy Spirit to give life to the many: not as an outsider, but by embracing our “form as slave.” Taking our death upon himself, he can communicate to us his own Spirit of life.

:hmmm: Here are some questions for personal reflection on this reading:

  1. What would it mean for you to start your day by listening to God? How might you do so?
  1. Recently, has the voice of Jesus to you been one that sustains you when you are weary (Isaiah 50:4a), or one that cuts like a sharp sword (49:2)? Why? How is that related to your attitude of love and obedience to him?
  1. Have you ever been verbally or physically abused because of your faith? How did you respond? What did your relationship to God feel like at that time? How does St. Paul apply verses 8–9 to us in Romans 8:31-39? In what situations do you need to lay hold of that confidence today?

(Questions adapted from The Catholic Serendipity Bible for Personal and Small Group Study, New American Bible; Zondervan, 1999)

Finally, a short reflection fro application on the First Reading from Catholic Matters:

APPLICATION: The sufferings and crucifixion of our divine Lord in his humanity are the Christian’s source of strength and encouragement in his daily struggles against, the enemies of God and of his own spiritual progress. Because of our earthly bodies, and because of the close grip that this world of the senses has on us, to keep free from sin and to keep close to God on our journey to heaven is a daily struggle for even the best among us. But we have the example before our eyes; the example of our true brother. He was one of ourselves, the truly human Christ. He not only traveled the road before us and made the journey, to heaven possible for us, but he is with us every day, close beside us, to encourage and help us on the way.

We need to remind ourselves daily of this. We have the crucifix in our Christian homes, on our rosary beads, on our altars, on the very steeples of our churches. These crucifixes are not ornaments, but stark reminders that our Savior’s path to heaven led through Calvary and through all that preceded Calvary. They are also stern reminders to us that the carrying of our crosses on the road to heaven is not an unbearable burden for us, but an essential aid to our progress.

When you are tried by temptations, when you are tested by bodily pain or mental suffering, worried to death perhaps by the bodily needs of yourself or your family or by the disobedience and insults of ungrateful children, stop and think on the Leader and his humiliations and sufferings. He came to open the road to heaven for us, to make us all sons of God, to preach the message of divine forgiveness and mercy to mankind. What did he get in return? He was scourged, tied to a pillar, spat upon and insulted, jeered at and mocked. He was nailed to a cross on Calvary between two thieves!

How light is my cross in comparison, how easy my Calvary. But he was sinless; his obedience, as man, to the Father was perfect. Can we or should we complain, we whose life up to now has often been far from perfect? Stop, think and listen to today’s lesson.

This Sunday’s Second Reading is from st; Paul’s great Christological hymn found in Philippians 2:6-11.

St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians is one of the Captivity Epistles, written from Rome ca. 60 AD. Paul founded the church there around 50 AD and visited there at least once (Acts 16:20). He seems to have had a special affection for the Philippian church and elsewhere he expresses his gratitude for their support of him when others had apparently abandoned him. The letter is, overall, positive with only a few doctrinal corrections and warnings regarding disunity.

To provide a little context, I want to back up to the verses immediately preceding our reading (verses 1-5, RSV):

[1] [If] there is any encouragement in Christ, any incentive of love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, [2] complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. [3] Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. [4] Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. [5] Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus…

The Navarre Bible comments as follows:

Verse 1 begins with a very awkwardly constructed clause, which the New Vulgate and the RSV translate literally. It is a conditional, rhetorical clause, rather than an affirmative statement, and its meaning is clarified by the rest of the sentence.

St Paul is making an affectionate appeal to the Christian good sense of the faithful; he seems to be saying: “If you want to console me in Christ, complete my joy by paying attention to the advice I am now going to give you” (cf. St Thomas Aquinas, “Commentary on Phil, ad loc.”).

The Apostle recommends that they should always act humbly and with an upright intention (vv. 3-4) if they want charity to reign among them (v. 2). In their work and social life ordinary Christians should be upright in all their dealings. They should go about everything, even apparently unimportant things, in a humble way, doing them for God. But they should also remember that their behavior has an effect on others. “Don’t forget that you are also in the presence of men, and that they expect from you, from you personally, a Christian witness. Thus, as regards the human dimension of our job, we must work in such a way that we will not feel ashamed when those who know us and love us see us at our work, nor give them cause to feel embarrassed” (St. J. Escriva, “Friends of God”, 66).

This fact that our behavior can encourage others and set a headline for them means that we need to act very responsibly: “Let us try therefore, brethren,” St Augustine says, “not only to be good but to conduct ourselves well in the eyes of others. Let us try to see that there is nothing that our conscience upbraids us for, and also, bearing in mind our weakness, do all that we can, to avoid disedifying our less mature brother” (“Sermon 47”, 14).

3-11. Verse 3 exhorts us to see others as better than ourselves. Our Lord, although he was our superior in all respects, did not see his divinity as something to boast about before men (v. 6). In fact, he humbled himself and emptied himself (vv. 7-8), was not motivated by conceit or selfishness (cf. v. 3), did not look to his own interests (cf. v. 4), and “became obedient unto death” (v. 8), thereby carrying out the Father’s plan for man’s salvation. By reflecting on his example we shall come to see that suffering for Christ is a sign of salvation (cf. 1:28-29): after undergoing the sufferings of his passion and death, Christ was publicly exalted above all creation (cf. vv. 9-11).

Our Lord offers us a perfect example of humility. “The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Scepter of God’s Majesty, was in no pomp of pride and haughtiness–as it could so well have been–but in self-abasement …]. You see, dear friends, what an example we have been given. If the Lord humbled himself in this way, what ought we to do, who through him have come under the yoke of his guidance?” (St Clement of Rome, “Letter to the Corinthians”, 13).

Overall, then, St. Paul is exhorting his beloved Philippians to unity and selflessness.

Here is the Second Reading as we will hear it this Sunday:

Reading II
Philippians 2:6-11

Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
something to be grasped.

Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.

Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
which is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

[6] Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.

Form– Greek morphe used here to emphasize Christ’s divinity. A “form” manifests what it really is.
To be grasped– unlike Adam, who was tempted to be like God. Other possible meanings are:

  1. “seized” – as if he didn’t have it already
  2. “clung to” - even though it was his as God to possess
  3. As a man would.
  4. Something to be exploited as earthly rulers would

[7] **Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, **

• **Emptied himself **of his divine prerogatives at the Incarnation. Also, could be an allusion to the relationship between the persons of the Trinity.
Form of a slave – powerless
• 2 Cor. 8:9—Christ made himself poor to make us rich in grace.
Human likeness– fully God/fully man, but appearing as a man, even seen as a sinner.

[8] he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.

• As in the First reading, and the other Suffering Servant songs (Isaiah 52:13-53:12), also Hebrews 5:7-8
• The Passion is meant. The cross was the ultimate indignity, reserved for slaves and rebels.
• Deuteronomy 21:23, Galatians 3:13, Hebrews 12:2

[9] **Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, **

• **“Because of this God…” **– Not that it forced God’s hand, but as appropriate response.
Greatly exalted him – raising him from the dead, enthroning him in heaven, clothing his human nature in glory. This is the destiny that awaits us, if we remain in him.
Name - Lord

[10] **that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, **

Every knee should bend – As in Isaiah 45:23, The Lord prophesied through Isaiah that all people would acknowledge his lordship (Daniel 7:14)
Heaven, earth, under the earth – in ancient thought, the three levels of the universe and all the inhabitants thereof – man, angels, the beast, the dead, and demons.

[11] and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father
.
• **Confess **– not only acknowledge here on earth, but at the last judgment (Rom. 14:9-12)
• In the Greek OT, Lord is applied to God only.
• Not only is this a recognition of Christ’s divinity, but Paul’s listeners would have caught the challenge to Caesar as Lord (CCC 446-50)

• Christ, appearing human, but in fact divine, emptied himself and died for our sake. We should ever strive to look to Christ and imitate him in emptying ourselves and being men and women for others.

3-4. "‘In every man,’ writes St Thomas Aquinas, ‘there are some grounds for others to look on him as superior, according to the Apostle’s words, “Each of us must have the humility to think others better men than himself” (Phil 2:3). It is in this spirit that all men are bound to honor one another’ (“Summa Theologiae”, II-II, q. 103, a. 2). Humility is the virtue that teaches us that signs of respect for others–their good name, their good faith, their privacy–are not external conventions, but the first expressions of charity and justice.

“Christian charity cannot confine itself to giving things or money to the needy. It seeks, above all, to respect and understand each person for what he is, in his intrinsic dignity as a man and child of God” (St. J. Escriva, “Christ Is Passing By”, 72).

  1. The Apostle’s recommendation, “'Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus, requires all Christians, so far as human power allows, to reproduce in themselves the sentiments that Christ had when He was offering Himself in sacrifice–sentiments of humility, of adoration, praise, and thanksgiving to the divine majesty. It requires them also to become victims, as it were; cultivating a spirit of self-denial according to the precepts of the Gospel, willingly doing works of penance, detesting and expiating their sins. It requires us all, in a word, to die mystically with Christ on the Cross, so that we may say with the same Apostle: ‘I have been crucified with Christ’ (Galatians 2:19)” ([Pope] Pius XII, “Mediator Dei”, 22).

6-11. In what he says about Jesus Christ, the Apostle is not simply proposing Him as a model for us to follow. Possibly transcribing an early liturgical hymn (and) adding some touches of his own, he is–under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit–giving a very profound exposition of the nature of Christ and using the most sublime truths of faith to show the way Christian virtues should be practiced.

This is one of the earliest New Testament texts to reveal the divinity of Christ. The epistle was written around the year 62 (or perhaps before that, around 55) and if we remember that the hymn of Philippians 2:6-11 may well have been in use prior to that date, the passage clearly bears witness to the fact that Christians were proclaiming, even in those very early years, that Jesus, born in Bethlehem, crucified, died and buried, and risen from the dead, was truly both God and man.

The hymn can be divided into three parts. The first (verses 6 and the beginning of 7) refers to Christ’s humbling Himself by becoming man. The second (the end of verse 7 and verse 8) is the center of the whole passage and proclaims the extreme to which His humility brought Him: as man He obediently accepted death on the cross. The third part (verses 9-11) describes His exaltation in glory. Throughout St. Paul is conscious of Jesus’ divinity: He exists from all eternity. But he centers his attention on His death on the cross as the supreme example of humility. Christ’s humiliation lay not in His becoming a man like us and cloaking the glory of His divinity in His sacred humanity: it also brought Him to lead a life of sacrifice and suffering which reached its climax on the cross, where He was stripped of everything He had, like a slave. However, now that He has fulfilled His mission, He is made manifest again, clothed in all the glory that befits His divine nature and which His human nature has merited.

The man-God, Jesus Christ, makes the cross the climax of His earthly life; through it He enters into His glory as Lord and Messiah. The Crucifixion puts the whole universe on the way to salvation.

Jesus Christ gives us a wonderful example of humility and obedience. “We should learn from Jesus’ attitude in these trials,” [St.] Monsignor Escriva reminds us. "During His life on earth He did not even want the glory that belonged to Him. Though He had the right to be treated as God, He took the form of a servant, a slave (cf. Philippians 2:6-7). And so the Christian knows that all glory is due God and that he must not use the sublimity and greatness of the Gospel to further his own interests or human ambitions.

“We should learn from Jesus. His attitude in rejecting all human glory is in perfect balance with the greatness of His unique mission as the beloved Son of God who becomes incarnate to save men” (“Christ Is Passing By”, 62). [Navarre Bible Commentary]

Continued on next post.

[6] Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.

Form– Greek morphe used here to emphasize Christ’s divinity. A “form” manifests what it really is.
To be grasped– unlike Adam, who was tempted to be like God. Other possible meanings are:

  1. “seized” – as if he didn’t have it already
  2. “clung to” - even though it was his as God to possess
  3. As a man would.
  4. Something to be exploited as earthly rulers would

[7] **Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, **

• **Emptied himself **of his divine prerogatives at the Incarnation. Also, could be an allusion to the relationship between the persons of the Trinity.
Form of a slave – powerless
• 2 Cor. 8:9—Christ made himself poor to make us rich in grace.
Human likeness– fully God/fully man, but appearing as a man, even seen as a sinner.

6-7. “Though He was in the form of God” or “subsisting in the form of God”: “form” is the external aspect of something and manifests what it is. When referring to God, who is invisible, His “form” cannot refer to things visible to the senses; the “form of God” is a way of referring to Godhead. The first thing that St. Paul makes clear is that Jesus Christ is God, and was God before the Incarnation. As the “Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed” professes it, “the only-begotten Son of God, born of the Father before time began, light from light, true God from true God.”

“He did not count equality with God as something to be grasped”: the Greek word translated as “equality” does not directly refer to equality of nature but rather the equality of rights and status. Christ was God and He could not stop being God; therefore, He had a right to be treated as God and to appear in all His glory. However, He did not insist on this dignity of His as if it were a treasure which He possessed and which was legally His: it was not something He clung to and boasted about. And so He took “the form of a servant”. He could have become man without setting His glory aside–He could have appeared as He did, momentarily, as the Transfiguration (cf. Matthew 17:1ff); instead He chose to be like men, in all things but sin (cf. verse 7). By becoming man in the way He did, He was able, as Isaiah prophesied in the Song of the Servant of Yahweh, to bear our sorrows and to be stricken (cf. Isaiah 53:4).

“He emptied Himself”, He despoiled Himself: this is literally what the Greek verb means. But Christ did not shed His divine nature; He simply shed its glory, its aura; if He had not done so it would have shone out through His human nature. From all eternity He exists as God and from the moment of the Incarnation He began to be man. His self-emptying lay not only in the fact that the Godhead united to Himself (that is, to the person of the Son) something which was corporeal and finite (a human nature), but also in the fact that this nature did not itself manifest the divine glory, as it “ought” to have done. Christ could not cease to be God, but He could temporarily renounce the exercise of rights that belonged to Him as God–which was what He did.

Verses 6-8 bring the Christian’s mind the contrast between Jesus and Adam. The devil tempted Adam, a mere man, to “be like God” (Genesis 3:5). By trying to indulge this evil desire (pride is a disordered desire for self-advancement) and by committing the sin of disobeying God (cf. Genesis 3:6), Adam drew down the gravest misfortunes upon himself and on his whole line (present potentially in him): this is symbolized in the Genesis passage by his expulsion from Paradise and by the physical world’s rebellion against his lordship (cf. Genesis 3:16-24). Jesus Christ, on the contrary, who enjoyed divine glory from all eternity, “emptied Himself”: He chooses the way of humility, the opposite way to Adam’s (opposite, too, to the way previously taken by the devil). Christ’s obedience thereby makes up for the disobedience of the first man; it puts mankind in a position to more than recover the natural and supernatural gifts with which God endowed human nature at the Creation. And so, after focusing on the amazing mystery of Christ’s humiliation or self-emptying (“kenosis” in Greek), this hymn goes on joyously to celebrate Christ’s exaltation after death.

Christ’s attitude in becoming man is, then, a wonderful example of humility. “What is more humble”, St. Gregory of Nyssa asks, “than the King of all creation entering into communion with our poor nature? The King of kings and Lord of lords clothes Himself with the form of our enslavement; the Judge of the universe comes to pay tribute to the princes of this world; the Lord of creation is born in a cave; He who encompasses the world cannot find room in the inn…; the pure and incorrupt one puts on the filthiness of our nature and experiences all our needs, experiences even death itself” (“Oratio I In Beatitudinibus”).

This self-emptying is an example of God’s infinite goodness in taking the initiative to meet man: “Fill yourselves with wonder and gratitude at such a mystery and learn from it. All the power, all the majesty, all the beauty, all the infinite harmony of God, all His great and immeasurable riches. God whole and entire was hidden for our benefit in the humanity of Christ. The Almighty appears determined to eclipse His glory for a time, so as to make it easy for His creatures to approach their Redeemer.” (St. J. Escriva, “Friends of God”, 111). Navarre Bible Commentary]

Continued on next post.

[8] he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.

• As in the First reading, and the other Suffering Servant songs (Isaiah 52:13-53:12), also Hebrews 5:7-8
• The Passion is meant. The cross was the ultimate indignity, reserved for slaves and rebels.
• Deuteronomy 21:23, Galatians 3:13, Hebrews 12:2

8. Jesus Christ became man “for us men and for our salvation”, we profess in the Creed. Everything He did in the course of His life had a salvific value; His death on the cross represents the climax of His redemptive work for, as St. Gregory of Nyssa says, “He did not experience death due to the fact of being born; rather, He took birth upon Himself in order to die” (“Oratio Catechetica Magna”, 32).

Our Lord’s obedience to the Father’s saving plan, involving as it did death on the cross, gives us the best of all lessons in humility. For, in the words of St. Thomas Aquinas, “obedience is the sign of true humility” (“Commentary on Phil., ad loc.”). In St. Paul’s time death by crucifixion was the most demeaning form of death, for it was inflicted only on criminals. By becoming obedient “unto death, even death on a cross”, Jesus was being humble in the extreme. He was perfectly within His rights to manifest Himself in all His divine glory, but He chose instead the route leading to the most ignominious of deaths.

His obedience, moreover, was not simply a matter of submitting to the Father’s will, for, as St. Paul points out, He made Himself obedient: His obedience was active; He made the Father’s salvific plans His own. He chose voluntarily to give Himself up to crucifixion in order to redeem mankind. “Debasing oneself when one is forced to do so is not humility”, St. John Chrysostom explains; “humility is present when one debases oneself without being obliged to do so” (“Hom. on Phil., ad loc.”).

Christ’s self-abasement and his obedience unto death reveals His love for us, for “greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). His loving initiative merits a loving response on our part: we should show that we desire to be one with Him, for love “seeks union, identification with the beloved. United to Christ, we will be drawn to imitate His life of dedication, His unlimited love and His sacrifice unto death. Christ brings us face to face with the ultimate choice: either we spend our life in selfish isolation, or we devote ourselves and all our energies to the service of others” (St. J. Escriva, “Friends of God”, 236). Navarre Bible Commentary]

[9] **Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, **

• **“Because of this God…” **– Not that it forced God’s hand, but as appropriate response.
Greatly exalted him – raising him from the dead, enthroning him in heaven, clothing his human nature in glory. This is the destiny that awaits us, if we remain in him.
Name – that is, Lord.

[10] **that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, **

Every knee should bend – As in Isaiah 45:23, The Lord prophesied through Isaiah that all people would acknowledge his lordship (Daniel 7:14)
Heaven, earth, under the earth – in ancient thought, the three levels of the universe and all the inhabitants thereof – man, angels, the beast, the dead, and demons.

Continued on next post.

[11] and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father
.
• **Confess **– not only acknowledge here on earth, but at the last judgment (Rom. 14:9-12)
• In the Greek OT, Lord is applied to God only.
• Not only is this a recognition of Christ’s divinity, but Paul’s listeners would have caught the challenge to Caesar as Lord (CCC 446-50)

• Christ, appearing human, but in fact divine, emptied himself and died for our sake. We should ever strive to look to Christ and imitate him in emptying ourselves and being men and women for others.

9-11. “God highly exalted Him”: the Greek compounds the notion of exaltation, to indicate the immensity of His glorification. Our Lord Himself foretold this when He said, “He who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11).

Christ’s sacred humanity was glorified as a reward for His humiliation. The Church’s Magisterium teaches that Christ’s glorification affects his human nature only, for “in the form of God the Son was equal to the Father, and between the Begetter and the Only-begotten there was no difference in essence, no difference in majesty; nor did the Word, through the mystery of incarnation, lose anything which the Father might later return to Him as a gift” ([Pope] St. Leo the Great, “Promisisse Me Memini”, Chapter 8). Exaltation is public manifestation of the glory which belongs to Christ’s humanity by virtue of its being joined to the divine person of the Word. This union to the “form of a servant” (cf. verse 7) meant an immense act of humility on the part of the Son, but it led to the exaltation of the human nature He took on.

For the Jews the “name that is above every name” is the name of God (Yahweh), which the Mosaic Law required to be held in particular awe. Also, they regarded a name given to someone, especially if given by God, as not just a way of referring to a person but as expressing something that belonged to the very core of his personality. Therefore, the statement that God “bestowed on Him the name which is above every name” means that God the Father gave Christ’s human nature the capacity to manifest the glory of divinity which was His by virtue of the hypostatic union: therefore, it is to be worshipped by the entire universe.

St. Paul describes the glorification of Jesus Christ in terms similar to those used by the prophet Daniel of the Son of Man: “To Him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations and languages should serve His Kingdom, one that shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:14). Christ’s lordship extends to all created things. Sacred Scripture usually speaks of “heaven and earth” when referring to the entire created universe; by mentioning here the underworld it is emphasizing that nothing escapes His dominion. Jesus Christ can here be seen as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy about the universal sovereignty of Yahweh: “To Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear” (Isaiah 45:23). All created things come under His sway, and men are duty-bound to accept the basic truth of Christian teaching: “Jesus Christ is Lord.” The Greek word “Kyrios” used here by St. Paul is the word used by the Septuagint, the early Greek version of the Old Testament, to translate the name of God (“Yahweh”). Therefore, this sentence means “Jesus Christ is God.”

The Christ proclaimed here as having been raised on high is the man-God who was born and died for our sake, attaining the glory of His exaltation after undergoing the humiliation of the cross. In this also Christ sets us an example: we cannot attain the glory of Heaven unless we understand the supernatural value of difficulties, ill-health and suffering: these are manifestations of Christ’s cross present in our ordinary life. “We have to die to ourselves and be born again to a new life. Jesus Christ obeyed in this way, even unto death on a cross (Philippians 2:18); that is why God exalted Him. If we obey God’s will, the cross will mean our own resurrection and exaltation. Christ’s life will be fulfilled step by step in our own lives. It will be said of us that we have tried to be good children of God, who went about doing good in spite of our weakness and personal shortcomings, no matter how many” (St. J. Escriva, “Christ Is Passing By”, 21). [Navarre Bible Commentary]*

The *Catechism of the Catholic Church *sections that reference the Second Reading include:

635 Christ went down into the depths of death so that “the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” Jesus, “the Author of life”, by dying destroyed “him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and [delivered] all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.” Henceforth the risen Christ holds “the keys of Death and Hades”, so that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.”

*Today a great silence reigns on earth, a great silence and a great stillness. A great silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. . . He has gone to search for Adam, our first father, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow Adam in his bonds and Eve, captive with him - He who is both their God and the son of Eve. . . “I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. . . I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead.” *

623 By his loving obedience to the Father, “unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8), Jesus fulfills the atoning mission (cf. Is 53:10) of the suffering Servant, who will “make many righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities” (Is 53:11; cf. Rom 5:19).

908 By his obedience unto death, Christ communicated to his disciples the gift of royal freedom, so that they might “by the self-abnegation of a holy life, overcome the reign of sin in themselves”:

That man is rightly called a king who makes his own body an obedient subject and, by governing himself with suitable rigor, refuses to let his passions breed rebellion in his soul, for he exercises a kind of royal power over himself. And because he knows how to rule his own person as king, so too does he sit as its judge. He will not let himself be imprisoned by sin, or thrown headlong into wickedness.

**2812 **Finally, in Jesus the name of the Holy God is revealed and given to us, in the flesh, as Savior, revealed by what he is, by his word, and by his sacrifice. This is the heart of his priestly prayer: “Holy Father . . . for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth.” Because he “sanctifies” his own name, Jesus reveals to us the name of the Father. At the end of Christ’s Passover, the Father gives him the name that is above all names: “Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

:hmmm: For the Second Reading, here are some “Questions for Understanding and Application.” adapted from *The Ignatius Study Bible; The Letters of St. Paul to the Philippians, Colossians and Philemon *(Ignatius Press, 2004):

  1. (2:3) How has the course of your live reflected this verse-- or stood in contrast to it? What kinds of people do you tend to look down upon? How can you “count others as better than yourself” and maintain self-respect at the same time?
  1. (2:67) What is the one thing you most want to “hang onto” in life-- the one thing of which you would be most afraid to “empty yourself”? Why might God ask this of you? If he has asked it, what has your response been?

Finally, a short reflection fro application on the Second Reading from Catholic Matters:

**APPLICATION: **As Christians we have no doubt as to the two natures of our Savior. He was the God-man. He humbled himself so low in order to represent us before his Father and by his perfect obedience. (“even unto the death on a cross”) earn for us not only God’s forgiveness but a sharing in the divinity, through his being our brother but also the Son of God. These words of Paul, or rather of the early Christian hymn he is quoting, are for us today a consolation and an encouragement.

Surely every sincere Christian must be consoled by the thought of Gods infinite love for him, as shown in the Incarnation. We are not dealing with some distant, cold, legal God of justice who spends his time marking up our sins and failures against us. We are dealing with a loving Father who sent his own beloved Son to live among us and die for us in order to bring home to us the greatness of divine love. Could any human mind, even the minds of the greatest of this world’s philosophers, have invented such a humanly incredible story of true love? No, it was only in the infinite mind of God that such a proof of love could have its source.

What encouragement this should and does give to every sincere Christian. We know we are weak. We can and do sin often. We know we are mean and ungrateful and that we seldom stop to thank God for the love he has shown us. If we were dealing with a human, narrow-visioned God, we should have reason to despair, but when our Judge is the all-loving, all-merciful God how can even the worst sinner ever lose hope?

No, there is no place for despair in the Christian faith. But there is room for gratitude and confidence. We can never thank God sufficiently for all that he has done for us. Eternity itself will not be long enough for this, but we must do the little we can. Let us face this coming Holy Week with hearts full of thanks to God and to his divine Son for all they have done for us. When meditating on the passion of Christ on Good Friday let us look with gratitude and confidence on the Son of God who died on the cross in order to earn eternal life for us.

He did not die to lose us but to save us. He has done ninety per cent of the work of our salvation. And, even as regards the remaining ten per cent that he asks us to do, he is with us helping us to do it. Could we be so mean and so foolish as to refuse the little he asks of us?

This week, rather than going through the entire Passion account, we will be looking at the shorter Processional Gospel (Luke 19:28-40), proclaimed at the beginning of the Palm Sunday Liturgy, where is recounted Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. This account, with varying details and emphasis, is related in all four Gospels (see also Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10; John 12:12-19).

This event marks the beginning of Holy Week, the last week in Jesus’ earthly life spent in and around Jerusalem. It is also one week before Easter, the Feast of the Resurrection. This was the day the lambs were brought into Jerusalem for the Passover sacrifice (Ex. 12:3).

Right before these events, Jesus (in the city of Jericho at the time) has just finished relating the parable of the ten pounds (Luke 19:1,11-27) where the wicked servants of the king squander his gifts and end up rejecting him. The Thursday after this Jesus will institute the Holy Eucharist and the priesthood. On Friday, he will undergo his Passion—his trial, suffering and death on the Cross. The following Sunday he will rise in glory, defeating death and Satan.

Here is the Gospel for the Procession of Palms, as we will hear it this Sunday:

Luke 19:28-40

Jesus proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem.
As he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany
at the place called the Mount of Olives,
he sent two of his disciples.
He said, “Go into the village opposite you,
and as you enter it you will find a colt tethered
on which no one has ever sat.
Untie it and bring it here.
And if anyone should ask you,
‘Why are you untying it?’
you will answer,
‘The Master has need of it.’”

So those who had been sent went off
and found everything just as he had told them.
And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them,
“Why are you untying this colt?”
They answered,
“The Master has need of it.”
So they brought it to Jesus,
threw their cloaks over the colt,
and helped Jesus to mount.

As he rode along,
the people were spreading their cloaks on the road;
and now as he was approaching the slope of the Mount of Olives,
the whole multitude of his disciples
began to praise God aloud with joy
for all the mighty deeds they had seen.
They proclaimed:
“Blessed is the king who comes
in the name of the Lord.
Peace in heaven
and glory in the highest.”

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him,
“Teacher, rebuke your disciples.”
He said in reply,
“I tell you, if they keep silent,
the stones will cry out!”

[28] **After he had said this, he proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem. **

28. Normally in the Gospels when there is mention of going to the Holy City it is in terms of “going up” to Jerusalem (cf. Matthew 20:18; John 7:8), probably because geographically the city is located on Mount Zion. Besides, since the temple was the religious and political center, going up to Jerusalem had also a sacred meaning of ascending to the holy place, where sacrifices were offered to God.

Particularly in the Gospel of St. Luke, our Lord’s whole life is seen in terms of a continuous ascent towards Jerusalem, where His self-surrender reaches its high point in the redemptive sacrifice of the Cross. Here Jesus is on the point of entering the city, conscious of the fact that His passion and death are imminent.[Navarre Bible]

[29] **As he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples. **

• Bethphage means “house of figs.” The fig tree is a symbol of Israel and Jerusalem. Right after this (in Mark’s Gospel), Jesus will curse a barren fig tree, a symbol of barren Israel.
• Bethany was the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus—the Mount of Olives was associated with a prophecy in Zechariah where God fights for Israel with his foot on the Mount of Olives (Zech. 14:3-21).

[30] He said, "Go into the village opposite you, and as you enter it you will find a colt tethered on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it here.

• **Colt: **Young, unused animals were considered especially fitting for religious purposes (Num. 19:2; Dt. 21:3; 1 Samuel 6:7)
• Matthew and John make it clear it was the colt of a donkey.

[31] **And if anyone should ask you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you will answer, ‘The Master has need of it.’" **

• Jesus plan for his triumphal entry into Jerusalem is full of symbolism and was deliberately Messianic—and sure to provoke a reaction by the religious leaders.
• It was the fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy (Zec. 9:9) and called to mind Solomon’s entry into Jerusalem after being anointed king (1 Sam. 1:38-40).
• Most ancient conquerors rode stallions—Jesus may have been making a statement about the nature of his kingdom.

[32] **So those who had been sent went off and found everything just as he had told them. **[33] **And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying this colt?” **[34] **They answered, “The Master has need of it.” **

• Everything is fulfilled just as Jesus had said.

[35] **So they brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks over the colt, and helped Jesus to mount. **[36] **As he rode along, the people were spreading their cloaks on the road; **

30-35. Jesus makes use of a donkey for his entry into Jerusalem, thereby fulfilling an ancient prophecy: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on an ***, on a colt the foal of an ass” (Zech 9:9).

The people, and particularly the Pharisees, were quite aware of this prophecy. Therefore, despite it’s simplicity of form, there was a certain solemnity about the whole episode which impressed those present, stirring the hearts of the people and irritating the Pharisees. By fulfilling the prophecy our Lord was showing everyone that he was the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament. Navarre Bible]

Continued on the next post.

Other aspects of this episode [of the colt] are commented on in connection with Mark 11:3.

Commentary on Mark 11:3
3. Although, absolutely speaking, our Lord has no need of man, in fact he does choose to use us to carry out his plans just as he made use of the donkey for his entry into Jerusalem. “Jesus makes do with a poor animal for a throne. I don’t know about you; but I am not humiliated to acknowledge that in the Lord’s eyes I am a beast of burden: ‘I am like a donkey in your presence; nevertheless I am continually with you. You hold my right hand,’ (Ps 72:23), you take me by the bridle.

“Try to remember what a donkey is like–now that so few of them are left. Not an old, stubborn, vicious one that would give you a kick when you least expected, but a young one with his ears up like antennae. He lives on a meagre diet, is hard-working and has a quick, cheerful trot. There are hundreds of animals more beautiful, more deft and strong. But it was a donkey Christ chose when he presented himself to the people as king in response to their acclamation. For Jesus has no time for calculations, for astuteness, for the cruelty of cold hearts, for attractive but empty beauty. What he likes is the cheerfulness of a young heart, a simple step, a natural voice, clean .eyes, attention to his affectionate word of advice. That is how he reigns in the soul” (St. J. Escriva, “Christ Is Passing By”, 181).] [Navarre Bible]

cloaks on the road—A common gesture toward royalty as with Jehu in 2 Kings 9:13.
• Only John mentions palms, which were native to Jericho but not Jerusalem.Palm branches were used in Jewish worship, but also as a symbol of victory.
(2 Maccabees 10:1-3a, 6-8; Revelation 7:9-10)

[37] and now as he was approaching the slope of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of his disciples began to praise God aloud with joy for all the mighty deeds they had seen.[38] **They proclaimed: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” **

•“Blessed is the king…”: From Psalm 118:26, one of the Hallel (‘Praise’) psalms sung at Passover.
• in the name: The one that comes in the name of another had that persons authority.

**38. **Christ is greeted with the prophetic words referring to the enthronement of the Messiah, contained in Psalm 118:26: “Blessed be he who enters in the name of the Lord!” But the people also acclaim his as king. This is a great messianic demonstration, which infuriates the Pharisees. One of the acclamations, “Peace in earth, and glory in the highest”, echoes the announcement made by the angel to the shepherds on Christmas night (cf. Lk 2:14).Navarre Bible]

[39] Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” [40] He said in reply, "I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out!"

**40. **To the reproaches of the Pharisees, who are scandalized by the people’s shouts, our Lord replies in a phrase which sounds like a proverb: so obvious is his messiahship that if men refused to recognize it nature would proclaim it. In fact, when his friends were cowed on the hill of Calvary the earth trembled and the rocks split (cf. Mt 27:51). At other times our Lord imposed silence on those who want to proclaim him King or Messiah, but now he adopts a different attitude: the moment has come for his dignity and his mission to be made public. Navarre Bible]

The Catechism of the Catholic Church references to this reading are especially rich in meaning. They include the following:

**Jesus’ ascent to Jerusalem **

557 “When the days drew near for him to be taken up [Jesus] set his face to go to Jerusalem.” By this decision he indicated that he was going up to Jerusalem prepared to die there. Three times he had announced his Passion and Resurrection; now, heading toward Jerusalem, Jesus says: “It cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.”

558 Jesus recalls the martyrdom of the prophets who had been put to death in Jerusalem. Nevertheless he persists in calling Jerusalem to gather around him: “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” When Jerusalem comes into view he weeps over her and expresses once again his heart’s desire: “Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes.”

Jesus’ messianic entrance into Jerusalem

**559 **How will Jerusalem welcome her Messiah? Although Jesus had always refused popular attempts to make him king, he chooses the time and prepares the details for his messianic entry into the city of “his father David”. Acclaimed as son of David, as the one who brings salvation (Hosanna means “Save!” or “Give salvation!”), the “King of glory” enters his City “riding on an ***”.Jesus conquers the Daughter of Zion, a figure of his Church, neither by ruse nor by violence, but by the humility that bears witness to the truth. And so the subjects of his kingdom on that day are children and God’s poor, who acclaim him as had the angels when they announced him to the shepherds. Their acclamation, “Blessed be he who comes in the name of the Lord”, is taken up by the Church in the “Sanctus” of the Eucharistic liturgy that introduces the memorial of the Lord’s Passover.

560 Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem manifested the coming of the kingdom that the King-Messiah was going to accomplish by the Passover of his Death and Resurrection. It is with the celebration of that entry on Palm Sunday that the Church’s liturgy solemnly opens Holy Week.

CCC references to the Passion account include sections 571—591, 595—618, 624—630.

:hmmm:Here are some questions for meditations and practical application taken from my weekly Scripture Study:

  1. What tasks does Jesus give two of his disciples? What problems might they have encountered in such a job?

  2. How do you picture the scene in verses 35-38? What do you see? Hear? Feel?

  3. What were the people expecting Jesus to do when he reached Jerusalem (verse 11. See Zechariah 9:9-10)? How are their expectations different from his? How does this help explain Jesus’ words and emotions later in verses 41-44?

  4. What does Jesus’ reply to the Pharisees (verses 39-40) imply about him?

  5. What kind of reception would Jesus get: (a) if he rode into your town today? (b) After the people there heard his message?

  6. When have you seen someone who was enthusiastic for God in public? What was your reaction to that enthusiasm? When have you shown enthusiasm yourself for him in public? How do you think God looks upon those who are unashamed to show their love for him in front of others (Luke 9:26; Mark 8:38)?

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